If it weren’t for independent filmmakers would we ever get to see movies from companies like Jim Bob Productions and Upstart Filmworks? Probably not, and the world would be a poorer place because of it.
Closet Space opens with grainy footage of some people working together on something scientific that suddenly goes south. There is a strong suspicion that the creatures this team discovered are killing them and dragging them away. Maybe even eating them!
Cut to a lecture hall where young professor Jack (James LaMarr) is lecturing on oceanic environments to a sparsely populated hall. He mentions discoveries of unknown species. Meanwhile, five grad students in an SUV are on their way to a remote farm in Texas where they will meet Jack and try to find out the nature of a Professor Polanco’s sabbatical study.
When the students arrive at the farmhouse, they join Jack for dinner, after which he shows them what Professor Polanco had been studying—a closet a half-mile long! How is this possible in this tiny little house? And it gets better—Jack says that the closet branches off! This is awesome! I can’t even find a vacant 10×10 mini-storage space.
Before getting excited about this fantastic find, it should be noted that Professor Polanco and his team disappeared 17 days ago. And…you’ll love this…there’s no cell phone reception. Laura (Evan Scott), a young woman who was smart enough to get out while the getting’ was good, is the first victim. We don’t know exactly what happens to her, but she does spray a lot of blood on the side of the house. Things work out, though, and she’s back in the house making breakfast the next morning. Best of all, she’s no longer grumpy, although there is something that seems to be trying to escape through her neck—something tennis ball-sized and shaped.
While Professor Jack and the four grad students explore the closet, Laurie monitors the equipment in the house. The explorers come upon a pit, and—of course—decide to descend into it. (The pit is a nicely rendered special effect.)
What elevates Closet Space above similarly-themed b-movies is its restrained approach (at first) to whatever the horror is. When the exploration team comes across something moving, we don’t see it. Techniques used to make The Blair Witch Project so effectively creepy protect us from seeing whatever evil things are in the dark, but don’t shield us from the fright the students experience. When we do see something, it’s flashed across the screen so quickly we’re not sure what it was. It’s always the things we don’t see that scare us the most—remember Alien?
We see Kristin (Morgan McCarthy), one of the team members, attacked by…something…and it seems brutal. The team gets separated and lost. Things go the only way they can—from bad to worse. Two characters past history get in the way of their logical thinking, and the boyfriend from hell (whom I was hoping would be the first victim) gets his comeuppance from girlfriend Laurie whose sexual apparatus has acquired dentition.
There’s some serious tentacle activity going on, and whatever is responsible seems insatiable. When Professor Jack and his ex-girlfriend Nancy (well-played by Nancy Donihoo) make it out of the closet, do they run for help?
Sure the situations are outrageous and the reactions even more so, but that’s what makes it fun. If these would-be scientists (not of the rocket variety) had refused to enter the closet without lighting it up with floodlights, there’d be no movie.
Writer Jason Stewart threw in a few references to other popular films—Terminator, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Jurassic Park—acknowledging Closet Space ‘s betters. Director Mel House wisely chose small dark spaces, providing an eerie atmosphere without demonstrating how small his budget was.
Although most performances range from adequate to decent, once Professor Polanco (Tim Wrobel) is found we discover that he and his cohorts were much scarier when we couldn’t see them. The special effects are not so special at this point, and the balance of the film is an exercise in gore and disgusting images. Save some popcorn for the last 15 minutes—you’ll want to throw it at the screen.
Bottom Line: Would I buy/rent/stream Closet Space? Yes, I would. It’s the kind of bad that is good. This one is like 1950s’ monster movies with a modern twist. Closet Space hits the street September 14; extra features include a director’s commentary, trailer, and coming attractions.